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The average cost of a dog bite claim in the United States was around $64,000 in 2022. Some home and dog owners may have concerns about liability issues from a dog bite, but homeowners insurance can cover these incidents under medical payments or liability coverage. However, exceptions exist.
Here’s what you need to know about when your homeowners policy does and doesn’t cover canine bite incidents, how to file a claim if your pup bites someone, and what steps to take if you have a dog bite claim on your insurance record.
When homeowners insurance covers dog bites
Your homeowners insurance can protect you from liability when your dog bites a guest on your property, but coverage may extend outside your home, too. Your coverage may include dog-related injuries that happen off your property, like on walks or at the park, but you should check with your insurer to confirm your coverage details.
The crucial detail to remember is that your insurance coverage has a cap. Your homeowners insurance covers expenses only up to your policy limits.
Good to Know
If your dog’s bite results in $125,000 of medical expenses but your policy limit is $100,000, your insurance company pays only up to the limit, and the remaining $25,000 is your responsibility.
When homeowners insurance doesn’t cover dog bites
While homeowners insurance often covers bites, coverage might not apply in every situation. Understanding these limitations is essential to ensure you have the appropriate insurance coverage for your needs.
Your home insurance may not cover your dog biting someone if:
The bitten person was trespassing or provoked the dog. Insurers might not cover the event if the victim was trespassing at the time or they teased or provoked the dog. In this case, the dog owner would have no liability.
The bitten person is a family member. Policies don’t usually cover bites to someone living in your home, like a family member.
Your dog is a restricted breed. Check if your dog’s breed is on your insurer’s exclusion list. If it’s a restricted breed, your policy might not cover the incident.
Your dog has a history of bites. Insurance companies can exclude coverage for dogs with a history of aggression or previous attacks.
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How home insurance covers dog bites
Homeowners insurance policies typically cover dog bites under two main types of coverage: liability and medical payments. These coverages help handle costs that arise from injuries your dog causes, providing financial protection for both the victim and you as the dog owner.
Personal liability coverage is a common coverage type in homeowners policies. If it’s determined that you’re legally responsible, it pays for property damage and personal injuries you cause to others — including dog bite injuries.
If your dog attacks someone and they sue you, your liability policy helps with legal costs, settlements, or judgments up to your policy’s limit. Most policies provide a base limit of $100,000, but the Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends increasing coverage to at least $300,000 or $500,000.
Medical payments coverage
Your medical payments coverage is a more streamlined financial solution in dog bite cases. It covers medical bills if your dog bites someone.
While limits are often lower, it’s effective for managing the costs of minor-to-moderate dog-related injuries. The benefit pays the injured person without legal involvement.
How to file a dog bite claim
While safety and receiving medical attention are the first priorities after a dog bite, some areas require you to report animal bites to the local authorities. You’ll also want to document the event and notify your insurance company as soon as possible. It’s your responsibility as the policyholder to file a claim.
Here’s what to do:
Document the bite. Write down detailed information about the incident, including the location and extent of damage about the bite, if known. Take photos and videos.
Contact your insurance company. Contact an insurance agent to start the claim. Depending on the company, you may be able to submit a claim online or through an app. It helps to have your policy number on hand.
Maintain regular contact with your adjuster. The adjuster is your primary point of contact. Answer questions they might have and provide documentation of the incident and any medical bills you might have received from the injured person.
Keep in Mind
The time it takes to process a claim can vary. It often depends on the complexity of the case and the cooperation of all parties involved. Your policy limit determines how much insurance pays. It’s common for your insurance policy to cover the expenses fully for minor injuries. However, severe bites may result in medical costs that reach or even exceed these limits.
How dogs can affect home insurance premiums
Owning a dog can noticeably affect your home insurance premiums, especially when considering your claims history and dog’s breed. If you’ve filed a dog bite claim in the past, insurers may view you as a higher risk, leading to increased insurance rates. This is because a history of claims can indicate a greater likelihood of future incidents.
Your canine friend’s breed matters, too. Insurers view certain breeds as higher risk due to their size or temperament, which can influence how much you pay for insurance.
Dog breed restrictions
Dog breed restrictions in home insurance can limit or exclude coverage for certain breeds that are considered high risk. This can affect insurance availability and cost for pet owners. Home insurance companies may charge a higher rate or deny you coverage altogether if you have a pit bull, rottweiler, doberman, German shepherd, or labrador retriever, according to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA).
For instance, Lemonade homeowners insurance policies have breed restrictions, but they vary by state. Your dog’s breed won’t affect your coverage in areas with no breed limits unless it has a history of biting.
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Tips for preventing a dog bite claim
Keeping everyone safe and avoiding dog bite claims can be simpler than you think. Below are a few tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association:
Train and socialize your dog. Teaching your dog good manners and getting it comfortable around people and other pets can make a big difference.
Keep your dog on a leash or harness. A leash or harness keeps your dog close and under control in public places.
Recognize warning signs. Learn to spot when your dog is stressed or scared to know when to leave it alone.
Ask before approaching. When meeting someone else’s dog, always ask its owner before petting.
Give dogs space. Don’t disturb dogs while eating, sleeping, or when they’re with their puppies. They can be extra protective in these situations.
Homeowners insurance and dog bite FAQs
Understanding how homeowners insurance relates to dog bites can be confusing. Here’s some additional information that may help.
Which insurance covers dog bites?
Homeowners insurance policies typically include liability coverage, which covers dog bites. It helps pay for legal expenses, settlements, or judgments if you’re facing a lawsuit due to your pet biting someone.
Can you get homeowners insurance with a dog bite history?
It’s possible. Finding an insurer to offer you a policy can be more challenging and expensive if your dog has a history of biting. Insurers might view you as a higher risk, leading to premium spikes or fewer coverage options.
Will homeowners insurance cover pet injuries?
Not typically. Homeowners insurance usually doesn’t cover injuries to your own pet. You’d need pet insurance to cover your dog’s medical costs.
Are you always liable if your dog bites someone?
Not always. Your liability depends on the situation, such as if the injured person provoked your dog or was trespassing. Local laws also play a role in determining liability.
Will insurance go up after a dog bite?
It’s likely. When you file a dog bite claim, insurers can view you as a higher risk for future claims and raise your homeowners insurance premiums.
Amy is a personal finance and technology writer. With a background in the legal field and a bachelor's degree from Ferris State University, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.